Well, the time has come for the March installment of the Gwangju Street Photography series. It is rather obvious what the subject is in the photo above. Also, the location is simultaneously ubiquitous and region-specific. Han-oak(traditional house)-lined alleyways such as this can be found in numerous small towns throughout southern Jeolla-do. However, their appearance declines drastically the farther north you travel on the peninsula. For a variety of reasons, these areas have been spared the often garish, vertically-driven development projects which have “graced” more affluent neighborhoods.
The colors of the photo are also add to the aesthetic of the scene. Like the houses themselves, their faded pastels show hints of what once was a far more ordinary sight. However, they also retain a connection closer to hues found within the earth itself. The inhabitants of these homes also keep a physical proximity to the earth far different from the high-rise dwellers populating much of the rest of the city. These colors work in oppositional tandem with the large shadow on the left side of the image. The darkened outline of the light pole seems to inversely light the way. It gently guides our eyes to the right while also seeming to provide safe passage for the figure about to round the corner.
Overall, it is difficult to disengage the symbolism which the action of the main subject provides from the momentous political events of this past weekend. As our eyes follow the action off camera, we can only speculate what will happen as the figure, and perhaps this society-at-large turns a corner.
[Photo taken with an Olympus 35sp shooting Kodak Portra 400. The lightened warm tones of this film, combined with the slight desaturation of colors from this 42mm Zuiko 1.7 lens, work very well together to produce both colors both nostalgic, yet also fitting of the preference for desaturated warm pastels found throughout contemporary South Korea commercial design and photography.]
(Photo & Text by Marty Miller)